Last updated : 17 January 2003 By Editor
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Sir Alex Ferguson believes the Premiership title battle has become a four-way tussle:

"It's probably just the top three now but then Newcastle have a great home record and have a game in hand over Chelsea. If they win that one then they'll overtake Chelsea. So you have to include Newcastle.
"For anyone else to get involved will take a mammoth effort.

"Five points may seem a lot but we were 12 points ahead of them five years ago and they overtook us," Fergie said. "We've also had the experience of being behind and overtaking Newcastle. So it is possible. What we need to get is consistency.

"In view of the bad run of injuries we had we have to be pleased with where we are. Obviously I would like to be first but we have done well to get where we are and it is about where I expected to be after what we've been through.

"We had a bad Christmas when we missed far too many chances but we got that back at West Brom on Saturday. We could have scored more but the important thing was we scored two out of our first three chances.

"I have said many times it's a very tough league this year.

"For our part we have to make sure now we keep our finger on the pulse and keep driving forward.”

Meanwhile Ray Wilkins predicts Chelsea's title challenge will be over if Manchester United beat them at Old Trafford.

"I honestly believe Chelsea have to win if they are going to stand any chance in the title race. A draw is no good to them. If Chelsea are beaten then that's it for them and it will be down to a two-horse race between United and Arsenal.

"Both sides will then have to keep on winning and the big game comes at Highbury towards the end of the season.

"But United have to get themselves in shooting distance before they can contemplate that and they must keep up this winning run they've got going again since losing a couple over Christmas.

"However, I don't think Sir Alex Ferguson's side's fate will be as clear cut as Chelsea's if they don't win this one. If United lose then they'd be level on points with Chelsea and they'd still both be in it.

"But the Reds must win their home matches to keep in touch. Winning on your own turf is paramount and when you have 67,000 fans behind you, you cannot afford to give up that advantage.

"I have watched Chelsea a lot this season and defensively they are superb.

"Whether they will have enough at Old Trafford to overturn United, who are in resurgent form at the moment, remains to be seen.

"Chelsea will be extremely tough for United because not only do they now possess a very strong defence but in the likes of Gianfranco Zola, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink they have players who can hurt you as well.

"They've done it before at Old Trafford and they are more than capable of doing it again.

"However, I have been very impressed with the way United have bounced back in the last month. They look very sharp again, very aggressive and their passing is second to none at the moment.

"I do think United have the creativity and firepower to beat Chelsea's defence though.

"They are two terrific footballing sides and it's one everyone should be looking forward to.

"Despite Chelsea's assets I believe United will end their challenge and win by the odd-goal.”